In fifteen collected essays about various myths Davidson explores such legends as how ancient people invented such creatures as
werewolves, unicorns, mermaids, and dragons, and what route Sinbad the Sailor could have sailed.
Davidson has to conjecture quite a lot, and the reader shouldn't just accept his theories outright. The fun part is
seeing how he argues his case in each essay. He's a veritable font of knowledge in a great many arcane matters and ancient history.
The book contains the following essays: Where Did Sindbad Sail, Who Fired the Phoenix, An Abundance of Dragons; Who Makes the Mandrakes; The Boy Who Cried Werewolf, The Great Rough Beast; Postscript on Prester John; The Theft of the Mulberry Tree; The Secret of Hyperborea; Heads I Win, Heads You Lose; The Spoor of the Unicorn; What Gave All Those Mammoths Cold Feet; Bird Thou Wert, But Art No More; The Moon and The Prevalence of Mermaids.
All of the essays are written in a rambling informal style that occasionally wanders outside the topic for a paragraph or two. That's one of the essential ways
in which they have been made different from the dry academic style and more approachable and intimate. They are full of witty remarks and humorous observations.
Also, Davidson doesn't make any references to fantasy literature; he stays within the context of myths and real-world adventures.
Most of his sources come from European legends, and not all of his sources are clear. Some of his remarks about politics, society, and gender are dated and might feel out of place;
this is a reprint of the 1993 Owlswick Press book, and all of the essays were printed
previously in science fiction magazines in the 1980s.
Anyone interested in the facts behind the legends or how legends have changed over time should find this a treat. The essays can be read separately, and this might be the best way to read them:
one or two at the time on topics which are of the most interest.